Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Walpole, Horace (1717-1797) to Catharine Macaulay

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC01799 Author/Creator: Walpole, Horace (1717-1797) Place Written: London, England Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 31 January 1778 Pagination: 3 p. : docket ; 21 x 17 cm.

Summary of Content: Discusses French criticism of her History and likens the ideal of a free America to that of ancient Israel. With Macaulay's note on p. 3 "I should not have..." Hopes that "a System of genuine Freedom may arise in America."

Background Information: Son of British prime minister Robert Walpole, Horace Walpole became a novelist as well as a member of Parliament. He became earl of Orford shortly before his death.

Full Transcript: Tho nothing coud give me more real Satisfaction, Madam, than to have been of any real, or even of agreable use to you at Paris, I shoud be the blindest ...of Men if I assumed to myself any Share in the just distinctions & regard paid to you there. Excepting my good old friend Madam du Deffard, I must not claim a part in the Attentions you received. The French have sense enough to distinguish between the female Thucydides & a trifling Writer on a level with their own trifling Authors, & who has no merit but that flattering one of agreeing with you, Madam, in having conceived no respect for most of their present Libberation whose behavior your acute penetration saw thro at once. I had unfortunately more opportunities of discovering that they are both supercilious & superficial - & Marmontel was the one that always disgusted me most.
I had not the honour of knowing Monsr Turgot, but believe him an honest man, & intrepid in pursuit of his patriot Designs. He was thought [inserted: to have attempted] too much, without knowing or weighing the prejudices he had to combat, but alas! how are prejudices to be reconciled to a System of Virtue, but by the common way of making the Virtues give place to the Prejudices? It demands an Uncommon portion of Genius & Integrity to make the proper Election between both, so as to make both [2] cooperate to the common good of Mankind. And so seldom does that Superior Assemblage of Honesty & Judgment happen, that it is perhaps the reason why the virtues that do exist are rarely beneficial to the Public. A Good Man scruples to go the lengths that are sometimes necessary; & by having too much conscience leaves Those that have none at Liberty to go all lengths. In truth if Knaves & Villains, & even Fools did not counteract one another or themselves, I doubt the condition of the World woud be still more deplorable than it is.
I can scarce express, Madam, the surprise you have caused in me at the Change in Dr [illegible strikeout] I really believe him an honest Man, but am sorry to confess I know his understanding is not deep; & hurt as I am for him, I rather suspect his sense than his Integrity. My Sentiments differ so widely from his, that I cannot but look on our Breach with the Colonies as the most fortunate Event that coud have happened for the cause of Liberty; & It is That cause, & not Place, that is my Country. A System of genuine Freedom may arise in America - or It had perished every Where! for I doubt Free men woud have waited as long as the Jews, if They had no Country to resort to - but with this Difference from the Hebrews, that as the latter expect a Reedification of the Temple, the Temple must be destroyed, before liberty is established any where.
I shall certainly avail myself, Madam, of the permission you give me of asking leave to see your letter to Lord Harcourt. You know the high respect I have for your Writings; & Madame du Deffard ventured [3] an expression in my behalf that, however just [inserted: I should not have] presumed to use myself - yet why not? Tho it is taking liberties for a man to tell a lady he loves her, because it generally implies no very respectfull Intentions; yet to love Virtue implies respect; and tho respect without love may content Monarchs, it would be too mean [illegible] to be offerred to Mrs Macaulay by her most sincere
Admirer & obedient
Humble Sevt.
Hor Walpole
Jan. 31. 1778.
[address:]
To
Mrs Macaulay
at Alfred House
Bath
[docket:]
Honble Mr Walpole
[struck: Lord Harcourt]
Jan 31: 1778
See More

People: Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
Macaulay, Catharine, 1731-1791

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: JudaismClassical World and Ancient CivilizationGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyFranceWomen's HistoryLiterature and Language ArtsFreedom and IndependenceRevolutionary War

Sub Era: The War for Independence

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources